Decisions, Decisions…

Recently I posted a blog called Writer’s Crossroads about deciding on what to write next. A month later I am still struggling with that decision. I’m not sure what my hold up is exactly.

I have actually written the first couple pages of the sixth book in my paranormal wedding planner series which means that I am heading in that direction, right?

Maybe. Because then I wrote the first couple of pages of the potential first book in my Mind Sweeper shifter spin-off trilogy.

And as amazing as I try to be at balancing my day job with writing and publishing, I can’t write two books at once. So I really, really, really need to make a decision and settle back into my writing process once again.

Do I roll the dice? Ask my magic eight ball? Shuffle the deck?

Any suggestions on decision-making would be greatly appreciated!

 

Writing Truly IS An Adventure

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For the past two days, I have been reading my newest manuscript in preparation to send to my editor. As I read through the story, I’m reminded that the words, if written correctly, pull you down a path of discovery.

While I read tonight, my girl cat performed an acrobatic dance that would make a Circ performer jealous. She was chasing some sort of flying bug and entertaining me while she soared through the air.

And that’s when it hits me. For her, she was on an adventure to capture the “winged beast”. She will do everything in her power to succeed. Writers also live for the adventure. Whether the plot lends itself to the high seas, or a distant planet, or a house in the suburbs, the true adventure is unraveling the story as the words fill the page.  If told well, the adventure pulls the reader in as well and allows them to escape to a world of the author’s making. Pretty heady stuff, huh?

 

 

Birdie Has Left the Building

aviary-670878_640Yesterday I sent my second wedding planner manuscript to my editor to start detailed edits. YAY! The birdie has left the building, if only for a little while. Soon enough, it will be back squawking for attention. And that’s okay, because I’m still in nurturing mode with my manuscript.

I want to make sure that the characters, plot, scenes, and dialogue are sharp and entertaining. And let’s not forget about motivation and conflict!

For this part of the process, it’s about STORY and not word count, which I love.And speaking about love…I am in love with my hero in this book. He’s a southern boy who happens to be a sea nymph. Oh, did I mention he’s an ex Navy SEAL? Yep. Charlie is my newest “book boyfriend.” So I’m anxious to share the story with you all to find out what you think of him 🙂

For the next week, my super-duper editor is applying her magic to the pages of my story. Then it will come back to me. SQUAWK, SQUAWK, SQUAWK. But no worries, since I will be one step closer to pushing the birdie out of the nest and into your hands!

 

Book Formatting is Like Building a House…Really

A couple of blogs ago I talked about letting my manuscript go, like a Momma Bird lets her Baby Bird out of the nest. Well, this week I have a new analogy. The actual process of formatting is like building a house. The funny thing is I have always said that I will never build a house. Why? Because anyone who builds a house knows that every decision (large and ridiculously small) all are funneled through you.  I have never had a burning desire to pick out doorknobs and heating ducts and ceiling fans. So instead I found a house that was already built and I bought that. And even though I tweaked a few things, I was happy because it was built and I was saved from the minutia.

Hah! I should have know that fate would catch up with me…

Formatting is about details and more details. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about the details in my writing because that is what good writing is all about. But with formatting, it becomes even more important because it is a visual representation of YOUR manuscript. So what do I mean by formatting? Well, your book has to be prepared in a file that can be used for print (if you decide to print your book) and digital. So when it comes time to format, even if you don’t do it yourself, you still have many questions to answer. Hang onto your seats followers. I’m going to educate you 😉

Things to think about for your digital formats:

  1. Formats: epub, mobi or both? (epub and mobi are file types that work with different ereaders)
  2. Font choice
  3. Spacing between paragraphs and between lines
  4. Justified right edge vs. jagged edge
  5. Indentations – for paragraphs and at the beginning of each chapter
  6. Chapter headings (Do you want ‘Chapter 1’ or ‘Chapt 1’ or ‘1’ or…)
  7. Order of front and back matter (copyright, acknowledgements, dedication, author’s note, author bio, excerpts of next book…)

And guess what? You have to think about this all over again for your print version, with some added questions:

  1. Size of book
  2. Paper color
  3. Page numbering
  4. Author Name/Title at the top of each page?
  5. Start of chapters (right or left)

Did I make your head hurt? So sorry about that… Now the good thing is that there are people out in the world who do this for a living. So for me, it was a no-brainer to hire someone to format my manuscript. At least for now. Maybe later when I become an ‘old hat’ at this process I can look at formatting for myself (and maybe not). But a formatter is like a builder and they need the author’s input to create the book in the best possible way.

As a reader, I have never thought about all of the minutia that goes into the creation of a book. As a self-pub author, my eyes have been opened to the world of publishing. Today, I got a copy of my manuscript in a digital test file for me to review. It was amazing to hold my ereader in my hand and look at my name on the title page. And then I got a lump in my throat when I saw ‘Chapter 1’ on the screen.  

2014-06-30 21.06.33Ultimately every little decision will be worth it in the end. And you as the reader can sit back and simply enjoy the finished product and not have to worry about picking out doorknobs. You can leave that to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Away from the Manuscript!

I am at a monumental place in my self-pub process. I equate it to a Mama Bird pushing her baby out of the nest for the first time. I am sending my Mind Sweeper manuscript to a formatter to prepare it for both the digital and print formats needed to publish my book.

I should be ecstatic, right? I am one step closer to my dream and when I have these formatted files back in my grubby little hands, I can then start sending them out as preliminary review copies in preparation for my release in early fall. It sounds like a logical plan all the way around. And it should, says my logical, business woman persona.

So why am I breaking out into a cold sweat at the thought?

All of my already-published author friends are chuckling at me right now. Because they have been through this themselves. They have finished multiple rounds of edits and proofed their books until they want to scream when they look at it ONE MORE TIME.

But as a perfectionist, I do not know if I will EVER feel like my book is perfect and ready to go. And that is my FIRST mistake. There is no such thing as perfection in writing. I can write the best daggone book I can and edit the snot out of it and someone will find something wrong with it. And I have to let that go. Ultimately, the pleasure I hope to give my readers has to propel me forward. Otherwise, I can continue to tweak and tweak a book but if no one is allowed to read it, then what is the point?

So I am unwrapping the death grip I have around this manuscript and stepping away from it slowly. It is time to let my baby bird flap its wings for the first time.

Fly baby fly.

 

 

I Got my Edits Back…And my Manuscript Wasn’t all That Bloody

You heard it right, my followers, I got my edits back on my Mind Sweeper manuscript. And I will admit that my heart started jumping just a little bit before I opened the file. What would I find there? Could I handle it?

The answer? I found quite a few redline edits (hence the bloody reference) and yes, I could handle it. Remember my new mantra is BE FEARLESS and that is what I intend to do this year. Luckily Ms Editor (aka ME) did not find any major content errors. So she moved on to two types of edits.

The first type of edit is what I call the ‘nitty-gritty’. ME went through each sentence with an eye for detail, helping with word choice, awkward phrasing, and general massaging of my sentences so that they flowed better. Apparently there are a couple of words that I like to use A LOT and she helped get rid of those. It was exciting to see how these changes could polish my story.

The second type of edits were done in comment bubbles and they made me THINK (no you can’t avoid thinking by hiring an editor, I’m afraid). ME asked questions on the story or confirmed what I wrote is really what I wanted to say. It was also where she suggested changes for me to consider.

first-aid-kitSo I spent the last week cleaning up my bloody manuscript and accepting most (but not all) of the changes. My editor does a great job of making me sound even better (which is exactly what you need in an editor). But I also have to be careful to remember that this book is mine. Not every suggestion has to be taken. And that is where the real decision-making comes into play. It would be really easy for me to simply accept all changes in the document. Would have taken five minutes versus the week I spent reviewing it.

But the story is ultimately my baby and I am very happy about the direction has taken. I just need to remember to stock up on bandaids and ointment for the future!

If Communication is Key, How Come We’re So BAD at It?

Interesting question, right? It is a true (mildly sarcastic, but true) statement. I see it every day at work and in my personal life. Why don’t we just say what we mean? Is it because we are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings? Is it because we don’t know HOW to verbalize what we mean? I know in reading the emails I get from some people that we don’t know how to write it succinctly in a way that makes sense ;).

It therefore isn’t a surprise then that many stories are based on conflicts that could be2013-08-20 21.17.36 resolved if the two characters actually told each other what they were thinking. Ultimately conflict is necessary to move the story along and keep the reader invested in wanting to read until the end. But that doesn’t mean that a misunderstanding or an inability to tell the other character the truth is the way to accomplish this successfully. Sure it can play a part in your story, but it shouldn’t be the MAIN conflict. In one of the writer’s workshops I attended, someone put it best by stating that “If the two main characters could solve the book’s conflict by sitting down over a cup of coffee and having a conversation, then that conflict is NOT strong enough.”

So how can you write the RIGHT type of conflict? Well, it needs to be fundamental to the characters. Is there some belief that they are diametrically opposed? Does the way the person was raised or live now, conflict with the other character? Does the other character threaten the other’s security? For example is the heroine a land developer and the hero a struggling farmer? Or Is the heroine a peace activist and the hero a Marine?

Or think about it this way…the characters should be flawed and need to grow and change through the story. Does the other character help with this growth? Do they take them out of their comfort zone and help them change or face a fear that they didn’t even know was stopping them from being a better person?

Evon more interesting questions, right? Glad I got you thinking. Keep tuned in while I continue to work on my communication skills!

The Emotions of Writing

So last night I started writing my work in progress (WIP) again after several weeks of non-writing. I know, I know, shame on me, but I did have an excuse of preparing for nationals, going to nationals and then recuperating from nationals. But I am back now, writing once again.

For those of you who don’t write, I thought I would share with you the gamut of emotions I went through last night. These emotions were ramped up even further since I hadn’t been writing. For a writer, that can turn on the self-doubt machine full-force. Will I be able to write? Will it flow easily? Will I be happy or frustrated while I am writing? WILL, WILL, WILL>>>?

So as I drove home (and I would only confess this to you, my followers) I sang a little jingle. “I’m gonna write tonight, I’m gonna write tonight.” Luckily I was not carpooling from work or I would have been dropped off on the side of the road. But I was ecstatic. I could equate it to the feeling we had as kids right before we went to an amusement park.

Unfortunately this emotion did not last. When I got home I made my first mistake. I decided to reread my WIP before starting to write again. Logically I told myself that I needed a reminder of what was happening. Makes sense right? All of my ‘non-writing’ followers are nodding and my ‘writer’ followers are shaking their heads. Here’s why. No writer can simple ‘read’ their work. It almost ALWAYS means editing it. We can’t help ourselves. It is in our DNA. So by the time I finished ‘reading’ it. I was tired and I hadn’t written ONE STINKING WORD yet.

Now the little devil jumps on my shoulder and starts telling me that I don’t need to write anything tonight. I’ve done enough already. But I shake my head and convince myself that I can write 500 words. 500 words to get my brain jump-started again. And I plop down in a chair, both cats taking turns sitting on my lap with my laptop as I begin the next chapter.

100 words – I’ve started now.

200 words – I know I can do it. Although it sure took a long time to get to 200 words…

300 words – dear God I am being tortured and in addition to being tired, I’m cranky now too. And this chapter is NOT working for me. Little angel appears on my shoulder and tells me to start writing whatever scene comes to me.

400 words – stop your whining, you’re almost there!

600 words – wait, I have written more than my goal. Why stop now? I can do a thousand words. The little angel is smiling now.

750 words – starting to tire, but my stubbornness is kicking in now. The devil is telling me to stop. I only had promised 500 words, now I am just showing off.

910 words – I flick the devil off my shoulder and tell him that I’ve won. The angel does a little jig on my shoulder

1010 words – I take a deep breath and close my laptop.

So you may be asking yourself why I would torture myself? Well, true there are some days where writing is hard and you don’t want to do it and you can give yourself a thousand excuses as to why you won’t write. But it is also fulfilling and amazing especially when you get into the ‘zone’ and writers know what I mean. Some days the words seems to stream from your fingertips and your laptop glows in the light of your creativity. Those are stellar days, but they are not every day.

A writer who must write has to tell the story. Has to laugh and cry and root for their characters. Has to work through the good and bad and somewhere in between writing days and keep going. Because once you get the manuscript done, another story shouts to be told.

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Time to Update my GH Project Plan

So for those of you who have been reading this ‘incredibly insightful’ 😉 blog since I got the call on March 26th announcing that I was a Golden Heart ® finalist, you will remember that I created a Project Plan.  I entitled it ‘Golden Heart Finalist to Published Author’ or ‘GHF 2 PA’ for short. Well updating needs to be done to my plan right?

Up to this point I have been concentrating on preparing for Nationals and what that wonderful event would have to offer me. Now that Nationals is past phase two begins, as in the published author part of this plan. Many of you have been asking me “What does winning the Golden Heart actual mean?”

Well, obviously it means elation and happiness. But it also means recognition that as an author you may actually know what you are doing. Or at least are heading in the right direction. So now comes the time to reach out to agents and editors and tell them what Mind Sweeper is all about. This manuscript has a golden heart attached to it which should help me market my work. I have told you before, my followers, that writing is complex.

Why? Because it is about creativity AND business. Writers are all about the art, but we also need to be savvy as business people as well. So not only am I trying to learn how to write better, but I also am trying to absorb the BUSINESS of writing. Wow…kind of makes my head hurt a little bit. But I have to move forward and plan for my career in writing.

Oh, and I guess I need to rename my project plan as well to ‘GHW 2 PA’ – Golden Heart Winner to Published Author.  Still basking in the glow – can’t help myself!

GH day 112 – aka ‘Last Chance to Break in those Shoes Day’

I am heading to Atlanta tomorrow and what am I doing now? Walking around my driveway in my high heels. Why am I doing this? That question must have come from one of my male followers (not trying to be sexist here, stay with me). New shoes, especially heels can be dangerous if the bottoms aren’t scuffed up appropriately. So I am walking around on the concrete, scuffing away. As I have been telling you over the last few months, I have had visions of my face-planting on stage if my name is called at the awards ceremony. So I am walking around one last time in these shoes and I am sure my neighbors are getting a laugh out of seeing me in said heels and shorts. I guess you can say I am channeling my inner Daisy Duke!

2013-04-13 20.12.50 My instrument of torture!

Writers’ manuscripts also need to be ‘scuffed up’ a bit before sending to agents/editors. What do I mean by this? Well, (and this is my opinion) usually the first draft of a manuscript needs to be edited. Whether this is by the help of critique partners or beta readers or a writer’s group, running some if not all of your manuscript by another set of eyes is a good thing. What makes perfect sense to me, since this is my world created from my imagination, does not necessarily make sense to someone else. So let other’s ‘try on’ your manuscript and scuff it up a bit. I have gotten some great ideas from my critique partners in the past. And as I head to Atlanta I hope to share my manuscripts with a bunch of people. They should be thoroughly scuffed up when I get back!